Are you rushing to design your posters at the very last minute?
You’ve known about that upcoming conference for months now! But the habit of due today, do today can be difficult to shake off in a busy research environment.
We hear you. We’ve even seen legendary posters that were designed in < 1 hour! The result? Check out a recent example that’s been circulating on Twitter 😆
So to ensure you create the best poster you can manage, we’ll need to do a little bit of prep work.
Let’s create a simple scientific poster template for you and the whole lab!
Why should you create a template?
It’s simple: you won’t EVER have to worry about spending hours from scratch to decide on how your poster should look.
By having a template, all you’ll need to do is:
add your text
add your data
change the pictures
This gives you an opportunity to focus on your poster’s design in one go before you personalise it to your research. So give it some love before its grand debut in the conference halls!
As a bonus, having a template for the lab allows you to create a brand for yourself. Imagine the whole squad at the conference with their posters dressed-up with the same amazing template!
Let’s give it a try.
Pull out PowerPoint, we’ve got some work to do!
You won’t need any fancy software for this. Just trusty ol’ PowerPoint.
For some help with troubleshooting and for some tips at each stage, refer to my notes written as (#) 👇
And don’t forget to Save as you go! 😉
Setting the page size and orientation
When you open PowerPoint up, you’ll be greeted by a blank landscape slide of the wrong size. We’ll first have to change this to your desired page size.
For this tutorial, we’ll create an A0 portrait slide to work from.
To do this, click: Design → Slide size → Page setup
Then, you’ll have to modify the width to 84.1 cm and the height to 118.9 cm.
(#1) Adjust this accordingly for other page sizes, or flip it around if you want a landscape poster.
(#2) If a window appears to ask you to scale your content up, click either Yes or No as your slide should still be blank, so this will not matter.
Define your layout
Defining your poster layout is like setting up a garden… without the plants. We’ve written an extensive guide on picking a layout that works for you, so check that out.
For now, we’ll create one of our favourite (and most effective) layouts.
Start from Insert and access the Shapes tool. With this, you can make a blueprint of different sections using Rectangles.
We’ll follow the stock-standard set up of:
Data (1-2 graphs only to support your main finding)
Contact details (and some funding acknowledgements as necessary!)
You’ll also need some room for an eye-catching graphic, which we’ll touch on later.
By doing this, you can set aside just the right amount of space you think you’ll need for each section of your poster presentation. Adjust the rectangle sizes accordingly to your needs.
(#3) Copy + Paste your rectangles so that you won’t need to redraw them every single time. Instead, you can just adjust the dimensions of every rectangle you copy.
(#4) The Methods section can alternatively appear directly after your Question if your methods are needed for explaining how you got to your findings. For others, the methods section may not appear at all on a poster, especially if you used a standardised protocol that your audience already knows about.
(#5) PowerPoint has a smart Snapping function which help you to ensure that your rectangles will be evenly spaced. Alternatively, check out the Align function in Shape format → Align when selecting two or more objects.
Choosing a colour scheme
When it comes to food, some flavours work well with others, while some do not. The same applies when it comes to picking great colours.
A great tool for coming up with a consistent colour scheme of 5 colours is coolors.com. All you have to do is Start the generator, and Hit spacebar until a colour scheme you like shows up. If nothing clicks for you, then feel free to steal a palette made by somebody else using the “explore” functionality of Coolors.
Let’s go with this scheme of navy blues, grey, white and orange. Orange will be used sparingly in our poster, as it will function as the accent colour.
To use this colour scheme, you can export the image from the Coolors website, or simply take a screenshot and import it into PowerPoint.
From here, you can extract the colours using the Eyedropper tool. As an example, we’ll turn this rectangle into the light Navy blue colour by:
Clicking the rectangle → Shape format → Shape fill (pointing down arrow) → More Fill Colours
From here, click the Eyedropper tool(looks like a glass pipette), and then click over to the light navy blue from your colour scheme image.
This colour will then be saved into your PowerPoint file for you to use.
Repeat for the other colours until you have all five visible in Shape Fill.
You can delete the image of the colour scheme at this stage.
Using this colour scheme, let’s make the background a dark navy blue. You can draw a Rectangle at the size of the whole Canvas. From here:
Right-click the rectangle → Send to back → Send to back
(#6) An alternative way to create a background is to go to Right click your slide from the left selection pane → Format background.
I’ll also colour each of the boxes for our layout as the light navy blue.
Let’s also remove the Outline from all of the shapes by selecting all of them (click and drag across your whole slide to select everything, or hit Command + A (Mac) or Ctrl + A (Windows)), go to Shape Format and assign No Outline.
Choosing your fonts
We’re all guilty of spending hours choosing a font. Been there, done that. But while the world of fonts is vast, all you need to do today is pick one font.
Or better yet, I’ll pick one for you.
You’re up, Avenir (Mac). Or if you’re on a Windows PC, Roboto does the trick too.
We’ll start by adding some placeholder text boxes everywhere. Access the Text box tool from Insert. Make these text boxes slightly smaller than the rectangle you’ve set for that section (so that there’s a clean empty border around the text).
Then click your text box, type out the appropriate label for that section of the layout, and change the font to Avenir/Roboto. The body font size should be ~40 pt to be legible at A0.
As you start to see your poster come together, you may want to make some tweaks. In this case, I’ve chosen to delete the top rectangle for the title, the authors' rectangle, and the rectangle for the data so that there’s more of the dark Navy background which functions as “negative space”.
Using different sized fonts, I’ve put together a placeholder title and the author list.
You’ll also want to Center-Justify the text to ensure that it’s in the middle of the textbox.
Adding the eye-catching graphic + data
Now this will vary greatly for each poster you’ll create from this template. But as a placeholder, a large science-related symbol will fill in the slot.
From Insert, click Icons which will bring up a menu of Stock Images on the right.
Type out “science” to see what images are available and find one that suits you. I’ve chosen a neuron in this case. Click it and then click Insert at the bottom of the Stock Image panel.
It will be brought into your poster. Drag it to your preferred size, and colour it in orange from the Graphics Fill panel. Orange was the accent colour we chose earlier.
(#7) To be extra stylish, have the graphic “drape over” one of your text boxes to make it feel like it’s popping out of the page!
Some placeholder data would also give you an idea of how your data will fit. Look for a “graph” icon and insert it as well.
At this point, you’re free to experiment with icons (sparingly!) and if you wish, to alter the colours of any other parts of your poster.
In this case, some bold orange for the title, some grey for some boxes, and some small DNA icons for each section completed this simple but effective look!
Now save it and share it with your lab!
If you’re up for a challenge:
Duplicate the template and adapt the content to a landscape orientation!
Change up the colour schemes so that your lab has access to more options.
And when you’re ready to fill in your template…
… there are still a few more things to consider!
Ensure that you:
Stick to < 250 words. We want to avoid creating a wall of text!
Fallen in love with the idea of templates?
You’re in luck, because Animate Your Science now has our very own line of premium scientific poster templates! So if you’re even more strapped for time to make your own, you can leave it all to us.
Handcrafted by our creative experts, these templates are available across 4 different file formats(including PowerPoint), include 50 science icons, feature 8 unique colour schemes, and also include our specially selected list of fonts. We know you’ll love them!
Good luck at the conference! 😉
Dr Juan Miguel Balbin
Dr Khatora Opperman
Dr Tullio Rossi